Zainab B. Asad, a Jew who converted to Islam, died Monday of cancer at Manor Care Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Towson. She was 57 and lived in East Towson.
The former Elaine Volk, a Baltimore native who was raised in Forest Park, converted to Islam in 1975. At the time, she was divorced and searching for role models for her daughter and five sons. She was influenced by her brother-in-law and sister who had converted to Islam some years earlier.
"My brother-in-law had accepted Islam when he was 17 and my sister a number of years after their marriage," she told The Sun in 1994. "I felt that the rationale, the teachings, the discipline, the community of Islam would provide the framework that I needed for my children. It wasn't until much later, actually, that I really sought God myself," she said.
"What concerned my sister was that she was trying to find a solid lifestyle for her children because she saw a lack of morality and spirituality in the world. She thought that Islam filled that void and need," said Aisha Sharif of York, Pa.
Acknowledging that the conversions to Islam were difficult for some family members to accept, Ms. Sharif described her sister as "a thoughtful, introspective individual who struggled and was always striving."
A son, Bashir C. Asad of Towson, said, "We were brought up in Judaism, but she was looking for a religion that could be a part of our everyday life rather than one day a week."
After earning a degree in English and education from Towson State College, Ms. Asad taught for several years at the Blue Bird School in Ruxton before moving to York, in 1976, where she bought the old Emig mansion and opened the Nuruddin School of York, an Islamic school.
The school closed in 1981, and Ms. Asad later returned to the Baltimore area where she worked for several years as an employment specialist with the city of Baltimore family.
She was active in the Baltimore Ahmadiyya Mission Home in Forest Park, and the Baitur Rahman mosque in Silver Spring. She also was a volunteer with various religious groups.
Services were held Thursday.
Other survivors include four other sons, Qasim M. Collidge of Glenarm, Khalid Asad of Frederick, Musa S. Asad of Silver Spring and Harun Asad of Herndon, Va.; a daughter, Jamie L. Collidge of Baltimore; and three grandchildren.